18 Things You Don't Even Realize Are Making Your Kid Fat

18 Things You Don't Even Realize Are Making Your Kid Fat

Unless you've been hiding from mainstream media and doctors in all forms for the past decade or so, you've probably heard by now that our kids are fatter than ever. A full third of kids are overweight these days ... and that figure is has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.

But there is a silver lining for parents: The concern over childhood obesity has led to a lot of research on what might be causing this expansion (and that's a literal expansion). It turns out some seemingly unrelated parenting practices that are common these days could be at fault for our unhealthy kids. Here's a look at the most surprising contributors to the obesity epidemic, and enough information so that you can avoid them at all costs.

How many of these have you been doing without realizing they're potentially dangerous?


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  • School Un-Safety


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    A study out of the University of Montreal identified feelings of unsafety as a major contributor to obesity in children, especially when those feelings came out of their school system. It didn't matter whether the kids in the study felt physically unsafe or emotionally unsafe -- neither kind was good for their weight.

  • Not So Sleepy Time


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    Sorry, Mom, but those bedtime battles have got to be fought ... and won. A study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine looked at the amount and quality of sleep children were getting aroung age 5 or 6, and then followed up with them 15 years later. What they found was that those who got less than 10.5 hours of sleep a night when they were young had between a 60 percent and 100 percent increased risk of being obese at age 15. That's huge!

  • Mealtime Madness


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    It's not just WHAT they eat. It's how they eat it. Researchers from the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition looked at the psychological causes of childhood obesity -- especially around what goes on at mealtime. What they found was that the way kids are fed can be just as dangerous as what they're actually eating. When mealtimes involve battles over what they're eating, it establishes a bad relationship between them and food that sticks around for the rest of their lives and increases their risk of obesity. Also, forcing them to clean their plates makes it so they don't understand "fullness," and makes them more likely to have problems overeating in the future.

  • Marriage Woes


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    Divorces are rarely pleasant for anyone involved, but who knew they could make your kiddo pack on the pounds? That's exactly what researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found. The study looked at 3,000 third graders and determined those with divorced parents were 63 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.

    More from The Stir7 Ways a Stressful Marriage Is Toxic to Your Health

  • What's Hungry?


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    Hold off on diets, Mom! Sure, making them eat too much is bad, but asking them to eat too little is equally dangerous for their waistline.  According to a study out of The University of Texas at Dallas, any kind of restrictive feeding practice undermines children's natural instincts that tell them when they're hungry or full, which could give them problems with overeating later in life.

  • Grass Is Greener


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    Looking for a new home? Better find one near a park. A study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics used data from the National Survey of Children’s Health to look for a correlation between neighborhood parks and rates of childhood obesity. They found that kids who lived closer to parks tended to be a whole lot healthier ... which isn't entirely surprising when you think about it.

  • Blame It on the TV


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    You know that TV is bad for children's health, but do you know how bad? A study run by the U.S. Department of Education found that kids who watch even just one hour of TV a day were 72 percent more likely to be obese than kids who watched less. The good news is that computers aren't nearly as bad -- actually, the study didn't find any correlation between computer usage and BMI at all.

  • Pill Poppin'


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    Antibiotics are a go-to solution for any number of childhood ailments, but research out of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine found that the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics on children younger than 2 is related to obesity later on in childhood.

    More from The Stir20 Ways Your Baby Is So Much Easier Than an Elementary Schooler

  • It Doesn't Stop With the Sneezing


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    There are more than 50 strains of the adenovirus -- better known as the virus to blame for the common cold and pneumonia-like sicknesses. Most people will catch one of these strains before they're 10, but there's one strain that's way worse than the others: adenovirus 36. Nealy 80 percent of kids who caught this particular strain ended up obese. On average, they weighed 50 pounds more than their healthy peers and 35 pounds more than their already obese peers. 

  • Turn Off the Air


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    A study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham identified some of the biggest culprits behind the obesity epidemic, and one of the most surprising on the list was air conditioners. The rationale is that our bodies use a lot of energy regulating our body temperature, but now that everything is air conditioned, they don't have to do that work themselves. Also, people are less likely to eat when they're warm.

  • Smoking Stinks


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    We've heard by now that smoking isn't really great for you no matter how you cut it, but there is still one advantage doctors can't argue with -- on average, those who smoke weigh less than those who don't. But kids of smokers don't have it so easy: Moms who smoke while they're pregnant significantly increase the risk that their kids will be obese, according to a study from the University of Glasgow. 

  • Workaholics


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    More moms now are working while raising kids than ever before. It's impressive juggling, but unfortunately could be bad for the kids. A study from American University found that the more moms work, the more likely their kids are to be obese -- they estimated that for each additional five-month period moms are employed, their child can be expected to gain one extra pound over and above normal growth.

    More from The StirThe Perfect Amount of Exercise Finally Revealed

  • Tonsil-less


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    But everyone gets their tonsils out? Not so fast. A study from the SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis found that 50 to 75 percent of kids who had their tonsils removed gained significant weight after the surgery. Scientists don't know why this might be, but the numbers are hard to argue with.

  • What Lurks in the Dark


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    Sleeping with the lights on is a good way to keep away monsters, but a bad way to keep down your waistline, according to a study from Ohio State University. Researchers found that over an eight-week period, mice who slept with a dim light gained 50 percent more weight than mice who slept in the dark. The lights mess with kids' circadian rhythms, and that's where the real trouble sets in.

  • Bye, Bye Breakfast


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    We've been hearing more and more recently that eating breakfast is actually going to help you stay healthy, and a study from Oxford Brookes University confirms this -- they found that children and adolescents who consistently ate breakfast in the morning had a lower BMI, a smaller chance of being overweight later in life, and more energy on a day-by-day basis.

  • Routinely Routine


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    Sometimes routines can feel grinding, but they're actually one of the best ways to keep kids heathy. A study from the University of Guelph in Ontario found that kids are more likely have higher BMIs if they were raised in homes that lack steady routines and schedules. They also tended to have more restful sleep and be more at risk for a whole slew of diseases. So get with the program, already!

    More from The Stir10 Daily Habits That Are Ruining Your Figure

  • The Air We Breathe


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    No one's going to tell you that air pollution is great for you, but it turns out it could be worse than we thought -- the dirty air that moms breathe while they're pregnant could be partly to blame for the high obesity rates, according to a study from Columbia University. They found that pregnant women exposed to high levels of pollution gave birth to children who were 1.8 times more likely to be obese at age 5, and 2.3 times more likely to be obese at age 7.

  • Pregnancy Cravings


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    Research from Johns Hopkins University indicates that pregnant and breastfeeding women with high-fat diets could be causing long-term brain function and behavioral problems in their children, which means obesity problems for their kids. Though the tests have just been in rats so far, they expect to see similar problems when the studies move to humans.

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